There was nothing easy about the last week for the Oregon State women’s basketball team.
It began with the plane ride home from Los Angeles after losing back-to-back games for the first time in nearly four seasons.
The second loss came after blowing a 17-point third-quarter lead.
Then came a tough week of watching film and practice.
But as hard as it was, Friday’s thrilling 57-54 Pac-12 win over No. 18 Arizona State in a game the Beavers trailed the majority of time was nearly as sweet.
“I’m really proud of the team the way we came back from the last trip,” said senior Marie Gulich, who led the Beavers with 20 points and scored the final three points for the victory.
“This week was not easy, it was tough and we just had to stick through it.”
Coach Scott Rueck was proud of the resiliency his team showed throughout the week and especially during Friday’s intense battle with the Sun Devils.
“We were coming off losses where doubt creeps in,” Rueck said. “Every time it’s hard to get over that. This week, this team has just been incredible in their resolve and courage to face that adversity and to come out and fight again and put themselves out on a limb again against a team that loves to fight and is used to winning."
This time, the Beavers made the plays down the stretch. Especially on the defensive end, where Rueck said earlier last week he felt the Beavers lost defensive integrity late against USC last Sunday.
“This team made the plays down the stretch (and) our defense is the reason we won (Friday),” Rueck said.
The victory could go a long way for a young team that is still trying to come into its own.
Rueck said the players feel pressure because of playing for Oregon State and the expectations that come with it.
“They want to keep doing what we’ve done here (and) that’s hard,” he said. “That’s a lot to deal with and so your mind can wander to the when instead of the possession. We just have to stay with the possession.”
While the Beavers have won games against decent opponents, they had come up short against top teams this season until Friday night.
“We learned how to win (Friday) against a great team,” Rueck said. “I think we’ve beaten a few good ones, Davis was a good team, the Washingtons are good, (but) we (hadn't) beaten a great team yet and in order to do that we have to relax, we have to calm down, we have to be poised and we have to focus on execution.”
The Beavers got strong performances from Taylor Kalmer and Maddie Washington off the bench Friday.
Kalmer scored eight points, grabbed four rebounds and found Katie McWilliams open for a corner 3 to close the first half that cut Oregon State's deficit to 31-29 at the break.
Washington added six points and three rebounds. Her biggest basket may have come after she grabbed a rebound after a missed layup and scored at the third-quarter buzzer to get the Beavers within 46-45.
“I think you are just seeing this team get better and better and the sky’s the limit for this group,” Rueck said. “We know it and see all the potential. It’s just them figuring it out. It’s this progression that we have to be on.”
The next step comes Sunday when the Beavers host an Arizona team that has yet to win in the Pac-12 after the Wildcats (4-12, 0-5) lost at No. 8 Oregon 62-44 on Friday.